Lockdown exit plan to be discussed by PM, CMs today
Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have a video-conference with Chief Ministers of all states on the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown which is supposed to end on May 3. At the meeting, scheduled to start at 10 am, he will also address their concerns on the poor economic condition. This will be the fourth time he will be speaking to the state chiefs.
The meeting will be woven around four crucial points — transportation to send migrant workers to their home states; curbs to be lifted from non-hotspot areas; financial aid to help the small businesses; and the provision to provide more testing kits/PPE/ventilators. In COVID-19 containment zones, the restrictions shouldn't be lifted, feel over a dozen states. Only nine CMs will be allowed to speak today.
CMs of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Gujarat, and Haryana, will get a chance to speak; while others can send submissions in writing. Almost all states opine that even without a lockdown, large gatherings must be banned, educational centers must remain shut, local transport should be suspended (except when it's used to ferry migrant workers), and social distancing must be maintained.
To note, this bygone weekend, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba interacted with state chief secretaries, where he stressed on the importance of containment, even if restrictions are lifted. "A presentation was made outlining the projected scale of the challenge at hand, especially since the current stringent lockdown cannot possibly go on for an indefinite period given its huge economic cost," an official told IE.
Meanwhile, quoting a source, HT said the nationwide lockdown is unlikely to be extended beyond May 3. The Centre has already eased a few restrictions, like allowing some shops to open in rural areas. "The priority is now consolidating health gains from the lockdown but also providing relief to three segments — daily wage workers, small businesses, and manufacturing districts," the person said.
Separately, states are preparing according to their conditions. Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the restrictions would continue in hotspots like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, and Nagpur. In Madhya Pradesh, 22 hotspot districts won't get relief. "Although the disease hasn't spread to new regions, there were no signs of improvement in the situation in the state particularly in hotspot districts," said Health Minister Narottam Mishra.
The government of Uttar Pradesh has banned public gatherings till June and Gujarat hinted at stricter enforcement in hotspots. Some states want financial support too. Chhattisgarh's Bhupesh Baghel wants funds to the tune of Rs. 30,000 crore; Punjab's Captain Amarinder Singh also wants money; and West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee wishes past dues to be cleared. She has also asked for more testing kits.
Yesterday, India witnessed the largest single-day spike with 1,945 COVID-19 cases being reported. The tally now stands at 26,917 with 826 deaths. The doubling rate is 10-12 days and the Centre projected cases to touch 2.74 crore by August 15. "By June end we could be headed for one lakh cases a day, according to the projection," a person in the know told IE.